Daniel Hastik, a StartupYard mentor who will be working with our Spring 2014 teams, is a serial entrepreneur and globetrotter. When he’s not tending to one of the first Czech based hosting companies from his home in Melbourne Australia, he’s founding new companies with the help of Seedcamp and Credo Ventures. And he manages it all remotely. Quite a feat, so we caught up with Daniel last week to ask him how he manages it all.Read more about Futureleytics on their blog, and a bit more about Daniel at hrkavarna.cz (article in Czech).
WIll you tell us a little bit about your career?
I started my career a long time ago. My first job was, behold … a sheppard! I was at school and I needed money. Believe it or not I have learned a lot from my first job 🙂
After that I used to sell small goods, and when I finished high school I joined the Bulgarian Army. I spent 5 years in intelligence doing some secret military stuff. After 5 years I realized I needed a change and in order to escape the army’s stupidity, I decided to pursue my dream – to work in IT. If you go through my resume you will find a lot of things – I used to work as a programmer, web architect, IT manager, Product and Project Manager, Open Source consultant, community manager, marketeer. I’ve spend the last 6 years working on startups. Now I am a “growth hacker” – the only definition that combines all skills I’ve gathered in my entire career … and I am happy! Also I am a Pirate! My signature is on the establishment act of Pirate Parties International.
You’re interested in open source, and you work part time on Mozilla’s Firefox. What drew you to that project, and open source work in general?
That’s an easy one. I like freedom and I like sharing. At first I started to share my code with other people and then I started to show others how and why to do it. The open source and free software movements are “guilty” of some of the most successful software projects, including the Internet. I contribute also to the Open Data initiative for opening all government data to the public. Talking about freedom, I even ran for European parliament with the idea to fight for our digital rights and I am proud that I helped the stopping of Sarkozy’s “three strikes” (the EU version of the law). Also I am mentioned in Wikileaks for that. As I said before I like freedom and sharing.
Why did you campaign for MP fall short?
People in Bulgaria were not ready to think deeper about digital rights and green way of living. Those concepts were new to them and that’s why we got so low results.
Ever think of running again?
No, because I think there is a way to do useful work outside of the parliament and to achieve my goals.
You describe yourself as a “growth hacker.” What does growth hacking mean to you in today’s terms?
It seems there are a lot definitions of the term. I personally prefer this one: A growth hacker is a rare combination: someone with the right marketing and technical skills who can come up with clever marketing hacks and also track their results.[This is the main topic of Bogomil’s upcoming StartupYard workshop for members of the accelerator]
You’ve been working for a couple of years in education technology. What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities in that field?
The Internet is an open book – you can take whatever you want, but you can also write and contribute. Using the internet for teaching and studying – it’s more than required now. There is huge knowledge collected and if you are a smart teacher you will know how to use it. The challenge is, well, to convince the rest of the teachers that using modern educational technologies is a must.
We worked together as a marketing team for a year, and one of your strengths is email marketing. Is email marketing more or less relevant today than before the rise of social media?
Email marketing never dies. This is the most used channel and it will remain like that for years to come for sure. If you are using it wisely you can get a lot from it. I know a company that used to send millions of e-mails almost every week, without any effect and after changing the strategy with more precise segmentation, A/B/C/D testing and adopting some anti-spam techniques the miracle happened – it works.
Email marketing is not just pushing the “Send” button. I’d love to write a blog post to share more thoughts on that, because is one of my favourite things to talk about.
What about social media? What are some of the common mistakes that people tend to make when trying to leverage social media channels into growth?
I love social media. I love creating experiments on social media as well (do not google me!).
The biggest mistake that most of the companies do is to do everything they can to get more followers. What? Yes! I know a lot of companies, even here in the Czech Republic, whose goal for their social media effort is to have new followers every day and to have more than others.
Well this is not so bad, but this is just step 0 – the work begins after that. You have to talk with your followers, you have to keep them entertained and engaged and you have to give them something they need, not just boring sales messages.
The social media channel is like every other channel – if you use it the smart way – you will get a lot from it.
What can StartupYard teams expect to learn from your input, and what do you hope to gain from mentoring StartupYard startups?
I will hold a workshop in April about, well, growth hacking. I will show the startups how they can use tools and ideas to find their first clients, how to nurture them, so they can buy again. How to do testing for their ideas and concepts, how to track everything and how to use the data to take business decisions.
Also I will show some growth hacking examples, that they can start using on the next day. Also I will spend some time talking about Behavioral Economics from the Marketing Point of View.
But most of the time there will be discussion, because I don’t believe in workshops where one man does all the talking and the rest of the audience is thinking about something else. We will talk together and grow together.
This week, StartupYard investor and VC, Ondrej Bartos, of Credo Ventures answered some of my questions on venture capital investing, and dealing with early stage startups. Ondrej has recently been cited as one of the top European investors in technology by Nibletz.com, and is a mentor at Startupyard. Here’s what he had to say.
You’ve been a VC for a long time. Can you talk a bit about your career, and how the field has changed during your tenure?
What about Credo Ventures (your VC firm)? Why did you decide to found it, and what’s your overall mission?
How has the environment in Central Europe changed for VCs in the in the past 5 years? Good changes, bad changes? How does the tech business here stack up against bigger markets?
If you’re comfortable talking about it, what was your all-time biggest mistake as an investor, or as an entrepreneur? The more apocalyptic, the better.
What are a couple of things startups are most often not prepared for when they meet you, and start talking to your about their products and their future?
What kinds of things can really turn you off from a potential investment? How much does personality matter in the founders, or is it all about the business?
Some people are scared of VCs. Are there any good reasons to be wary of dealing with many of them?
What are some things founders are often preoccupied with, but which don’t matter as much as they think?
What’s the best pitch you’ve ever heard, and what made it so great?
What are 5 things you want a company to have accomplished before you consider investing?b
Well, there’s pretty much just 1 thing to accomplish: convince us that we should invest. But seriously, we want the founders to convince us on the existence of a problem or pain in the market, show us big enough potential in solving that problem, explain us what the solution is, build a strong and committed team and ideally show us some initial traction proving their point and ability to execute. Not difficult, ay? 🙂
Prague is an awesome place, both to run a startup and to live in… 🙂 You can change the world no matter where you’re based. Although it is still the case that for some startups you should at least have access and exposure in places like Silicon Valley, but you can still base your startup anywhere else.[ssba]